The ‘Bright Sparks’ programme was created in 2000 by ETITO, the industry training organisation for seven different industries, including electrotechnology and telecommunications. The programme aims to increase the pool of talented young people available for employment and further training in New Zealand’s hi-tech industries.
Ten years later, the Bright Sparks programme continues to be a successful way to foster the skills of youth who are keen on technology careers. Such support is crucial in the development of our nation's future engineers, electricians and computer programmers.
Bright Sparks consists of three main elements. Firstly, the National Certificate in Electronics Technology (NCET Levels 2 and 3) provides a qualification pathway from secondary schools to tertiary institutions. NCET is currently available in 200 schools at Years 11, 12 and 13, with supporting junior programmes. Secondly, the Bright Sparks internet club encourages interaction and discussions with a popular blog for its 2000 student members, which is supported by industry mentors.
The third part of the programme is the nation-wide annual Bright Sparks competition for recognising student innovation and excellence in electronics, software and computer control. The competition inspires youth to invent and create projects that are rewarded with great prizes, and helps boost their confidence and motivation for pursuing a future in the hi-tech industry.
A recent research project surveyed a cross section of participants in Bright Sparks to assess its effectiveness. The results concluded that the programme is right on track with its aim of encouraging young people to train and work in the hi-tech industry. The results found that the greatest influence in the choice of job or tertiary education for the 19-23 year olds surveyed was a passion for their vocation. Importantly, it was discovered that the majority of students taking the NCET aspect of the Bright Sparks programme continue on to tertiary training or employment relevant to hi-tech industry.
The Bright Sparks programme is successful in drawing young people into a community that nurtures their passion and talents, connecting people of similar interests, mentoring their projects, and providing an outlet and platform for their creativity to be seen and celebrated by industry. Overall, it has provided a mechanism for opening doors for its participants and created a useful pathway into the hi-tech industry.
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